Kenya’s Kakuma Ventures bring solar-powered internet access to residents in one of the world’s largest refugee camps. The business was founded by refugee Innocent Tshilombo and supports entrepreneurs across the Kakuma camp to set up and manage WiFi hotspots in their own neighbourhoods.
Over 1,500 people have been helped to get online, many of them first time internet users. Internet access is boosting enterprises across the camp – from shops to graphic designers – as well as the education of more than 400 students. Kakuma Ventures has also trained more than 60 young people in computing and solar engineering skills and helped them with job opportunities.
A unique business model
Kakuma Ventures business model sees entrepreneurs buy a solar home system and WiFi equipment on credit from the organisation, then sell internet subscriptions to their neighbours. Money from these subscriptions is held by Kakuma Ventures to pay off the cost of the equipment after which the subscriptions generate an income for the entrepreneur.
The organisation has also recently launched a digital listing platform for businesses based in the camp, allowing them to trade online.
Increasing skills and knowledge is central to Kakuma Ventures work. Its marketing activities shows camp residents the opportunities the internet can bring for education and employment, support in getting them online and for giving families reassurance and advice on keeping children safe when using the internet.
And as well as running its own training programme, the organisation empowers many other education providers. Honore Ebengo, of non-profit ADlYD2, says: “Kakuma Ventures is the pillar of the digital ecosystem of the camp, supporting our graduates to take the next step.”
WiFi is a family business for Maureen and Mwanadamu
Married couple Maureen and Mwanadamu have worked with Kakuma Ventures to become neighbourhood WiFi entrepreneurs. Mwanadamu helps local people subscribe to the WiFi service run by the family, while Maureen uses technical training from Kakuma Ventures to maintain the solar system that keeps the service powered up. This business model has brought affordable internet access to nearby families and clean energy to the family’s home.
Refugee Conzana Cornelius is Kakuma Ventures operations manager. She says: “When I joined, I had an opportunity to study and work at the same time. I was raised by a single mother in the camp and I feel empowered because I can contribute to the running of my home.”
1 November 2023
Ashden Award for Integrated Energy Africa
25 October 2023
Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions
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